May

Writing from the “Telling Lives” Workshop by Miriam Lamarka Miranda and Lizbeth Eunice Altamirano Torreblanco

In class this term, we explored a variety of ways to write based on interviews. Here, Miriam profiles a co-worker at the Clavijero Cultural Center in Morelia, the practicum site where she worked as part of her degree program. Lizbeth returns to the theme of family through an interview with her mother about her grandmother’s life.

Miriam Lamarka Miranda – Profile by Grecia Gonzalez Miranela

The first thing you notice when you meet Miriam is her shyness and the happiness in her eyes. She is 23 years old and a communications major at UNLA. The activity she loves the most is photography. She thinks every picture she captures is a special one because it represents a unique and unforgettable moment.

Art for her is an amazing way to express her feelings and the reality that surrounds us. When you ask her about her favorite artist, the first that comes to mind is Vincent Van Gogh. Her favorite piece by him is “The Starry Night.” She also loves listening to live music, watching musicians play and perform, drinking iced tea, eating really good food and pizza, reading novels, designing accessories and clothes with her sister in their little business project, and spending time with her family and her boyfriend.

She loves writing because it’s a really good way to remember daily life and experience. She hopes she will improve her English, her style, and that she will write something meaningful in the “Telling Lives” class.

“Amparo”

The Clavijero library is a big, dark place. Shelves house the books, all donated by two respectful history researchers, Elsa Vargaslugo and her husband Carlos Bosch, both from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in México City. I work at the Clavijero with Amparo, whose name means “protection” or “refuge.”

Photo of the Clavijero by Miriam

Every morning when I arrive at the library, Amparo receives me with a smile and asks how I’m doing. She’s really an easygoing person. I met her through my professional internship at school. I decided to work at a museum because culture and art are what I enjoy most. I wanted to have a more educated point of view about these matters to help decide where I want to work when I leave university.

Everyday I find interesting books and new things to learn about and look at. In this context everything seems beautiful. Of course, all my life I have enjoyed being surrounded by books.

On the rainy, cold day of our interview, Amparo is wearing a black coat and working at the computer. She has big shiny eyes and brown skin with short, black hair. She laughs when I ask where she is from. “I’m from El Rancho Grande,” she says – a term Mexicans use to refer to a nonexistent fantasy world.

“I’m not even 30 years old and I have to take a lot of medicine,” she adds. Amparo has a problem with her heart, hypertension, so she has to take care of herself.

She described her real hometown, Tlalpujahua as a very beautiful place well known for its Christmas ornaments and the mines. Growing up, she used to play a lot outside, enjoying rural life. Her dad was a bus driver and her mom did the chores in their home.

“When I was little I was influenced a lot by my grandmother. She always told me that I had to keep away my tears if my husband one day treated me bad. But I asked her why I had to suffer? My grandmother is a very conservative person. So I have this clash of ideas. In little towns like Tlalpujahua ‘machista’ thinking prevails.”

Perhaps this is the reason that Amparo studies gender inequality. The way she was raised is so different from her way of thinking and that of her generation.

She studied history at Michoacana University. She would like to devote herself to her research. “I’m trying to finish my thesis,” she told me. It’s about the cloistered nuns in a convent in Morelia called “Carmelitas descalzas,” about their way of life and their thinking. She told me that when she visited the convent she couldn’t see the nuns because a big wall separated them. The thesis explores the nuns’ lives during the mid-nineteenth century when President Benito Juárez closed religious institutions as part of his reform laws.

“I have a group of workers at the university (Michoacana) and I’m very happy about that. Finally, we have our own department of gender and women studies. I’m really into that. We want to create our own publications with interesting articles. But now I’m more concentrated on finishing my thesis.”

Amparo has more enthusiasm than many workers I know, even though the bureaucracy she works with is slow. She attends to her work with a good attitude.

One day, she gave me a tour of the library and told me some creepy stories. “This place has a lot of history and energy.” The library used to be a place where priests lived. “One day a Bible fell off its shelf for no reason. Nobody knew why, but a lot of strange things happen here. Books disappear or change places. Maybe it could be the chaneques,” she says, “So we put candies here.” Chaneques are fantasy characters, magic little people that steal or hide things in Mexican culture.

Amparo is as mysterious as the library, and as interesting too.

Lizbeth Eunice Altamirano Torreblanco – Profile by Dinorah Ambriz Cárcamo

Liz is a young woman in her twenties. A student of communication sciences, she introduces herself as “sensible, girlish, helpful, unpunctual, happy, relaxed, unorganized and friendly.”

For several months, she was a presenter on a television show on a local channel called “Voz y Solución.” The program addressed social problems in the community, and although she wasn’t completely pleased with the program itself, she was happy because she had always wanted to be on television. Liz would like to have her own program, one like those on “E entertainment television,” she says as a joke.

Her current life is marked by her boyfriend. She smiles when talking about him. Just being with him is one of the things she loves most. For her, the relationship has opened new scenarios. “He is really mature, he is constantly telling me to put my feet on the ground, that I can’t be capricious,” she says. For Liz, he is a serious candidate for sharing her life.

Family is core in Liz’s life. She has never been away from her family and she wouldn’t want to be. Closeness and good relationships with her family members have shaped her. What she enjoys most are those family meals where everyone – cousins, aunts and parents – reunites and laughs.

A Moreliana for all of her life, she would only move to another place for job reasons. She also loves movies, music, parties, traveling to new places, sleeping and eating, especially makis, a type of sushi.

 ”My Grandmother’s Story”

It was a sunny and shiny day. My mom had just finished cooking, and she was happy but tired. I knew that this interview would be hard for her because my grandmother’s life was so difficult, but satisfying too. My mom was happy to answer these interview questions about my granny. She likes to talk about her mother’s life to us, her daughters and son.

“Talk to me about my granny’s life….” Only a few words were enough for my mom to start a long conversation. After a big sigh she began…

“Candelaria Campos Hernandez, my mother, was born on February 2nd 1919 in Colima. In 1918, Mexico was undergoing a flu epidemic. Many families escaped from the region to save themselves from that sickness. So the parents of my mother, joined by her grandmom, decided to leave Zacatula, Guerrero, a poor little place located on the coast of Guerrero, close to Michoacán. After a year, my mother would be born, and her mother would die because of her birth.

My “mom Salomé” (grandmother of my mother) raised her; she was very strict. My mother started to work at the age of five. They were very poor so she had to do it so that they could eat.

When my mother was 13 years old, she started to attract the attention of the man who would become my father. He started to visit his stepbrothers because they were neighbors of my mom. He used to talk with Salomé, and get closer to my mom. My father was much older than my mom. They got married when she was 14 and he was 33 years old. “She didn’t know anything about love, or sex, because her “mother” never talked to her about that.”

At that moment I paused. I couldn’t hide my surprise that my grandmother didn’t know about sex because she never heard anything about it. My mom explained to me that those were topics that people of that time didn’t talk about.

She continued telling me that her mother had to grow up at the age of 15 when she had her first daughter. After that she had to deal with the death of two of her babies, one at two years old and the other, a few days after he was born.

“Some years later my father died when he was only 63 years old, of a heart attack. My mother was widowed at the age of 43 with 11 children.”

 My mom’s voice began to crack and her eyes began to drop tears. I just embraced her without saying anything. My mom continued talking:

“No one could be at my father’s funeral, because everyone found out about the notice too late. My mother was with me at the hospital because I was operated on. I was only six years old and I would be there during three months of convalescence. My oldest sister and my youngest sister were accompanying me; the others were in Uruapan, Morelia, and Tiripetio studying. Only Rosalio, 17 years old, Maria, 13 years old and Fide, 10 years old were in Zacatula. They had to deal with my father’s body and everything else. Some years later my oldest sister died of heart attack too when she was only 45 years old. Then another sister died of cancer. My mother had to be so strong and deal with all this death. As you know she died almost three years ago of cancer too, at the age of 91.

She was very strong, humble, smart, and even through all the problems she had, she was so happy because she formed a large and beautiful family that was with her until the last day of her life, trying to give her back a little of all the love she had for us.”

 

Writing from the “Telling Lives” Workshop by Dhilery Alejandra García Hernandez and Grecia Gonzalez Miranela

Everyone in the workshop conducted a variety of interviews, some with family members. They often discovered hidden dimensions of lives they thought they knew. Sometimes those individual stories connected to larger social histories, as in Dhilery’s story of her Uncle Rojo’s education at España-Mexico.

Other times, in the writing process, students excavated memories that yielded new insight into family, as Grecia’s personal essay illustrates.

Dhilery Alejandra García Hernande – Profile by Carlos Emilio Rodríguez Barrientos

Dhilery is currently studying communication sciences at Universidad Latina de América. Though it wasn’t her original plan, she decided to stay in Morelia with her family during her studies, knowing she would be able to live in a foreign city in the future. She now thinks that staying here was for the best. She has the support of her family and the comforts of home. There will be time later for adventures in foreign lands.

She has also done many things outside of school. Last year she worked at “Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia.” It was a very good experience because she could watch life in a work environment and it helped to prepare her for a career after she finishes her studies. It was really great for her to see the roles people play in the workforce and how an organization needs everybody to participate. This says a lot about her personality. She likes order and responsibility. Most important, it proves that she really likes what she studies, and communications will prepare her to work in a similar organization in the future.

Dhilery also likes to study other languages such as English, French, and Chinese, and she enjoys learning about different cultures. She hopes to study for a master´s degree in another country, but she wants to come back to help Mexico and her community to become a better place.

“Tio Rojo”

I spend Christmas with most of the members of my mother’s family. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins get together to pass some quality time.

Since I was a child, my uncle Jesús Cerriteño has been coming to Morelia. He would just sit in the family living room watching all of us chat. He was enjoying the reunions, but sat there without speaking, only smiling.

I would never have imagined that he had such an interesting life story. My mother used to talk about how my wonderful uncle (also her’s) would arrive home and give his children and my mom, who used to play with her cousins when she was young, a small candy cake called “gansito.”

I had wondered for a long time about my uncle and his life. An interview was the perfect tool for learning about him.

We call my uncle Jesús “Tio Rojo” (Uncle “Red”). When he was a teenager, one day he was playing basketball and nobody knew his name. He helped his team win, so when the people congratulated him they just said,“You the red one, congratulations.” So everyone started to call him “Rojo” after that basketball match.

Now at the age of 75, that teenager still has his smile, his laugh and good conversation for those willing to listen. His hair is almost all white and his skin is a little bit tanned. Because of his work as a painter, he spends a lot of time outdoors.

I interviewed him in my house in Morelia. He was wearing a blue sweater, a pair of jeans, and black shoes when he started to talk about his life.

Jesús Cerriteño was born on December 15, 1938. When he was five years old, he became one of those lucky Mexican kids to study at a special school. “España-Mexico” was founded in 1942 when Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas ordered the construction of a boarding school for orphans from the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco was the Spanish dictator from 1936 until his death in 1975. Thousands of people died during the war, leaving children behind. Some of those kids came to Morelia on a ship in order to have a chance at a better life.

Some Mexican kids also had the opportunity to live and study at “España-Mexico,” the best school in Michoacán at that time. My uncle was one of them. “Thanks to my mom, I could go to that school,” he says. He was raised by his mother, who was a housekeeper. She helped him get the scholarship that allowed him to study at the boarding school. ”It was the best one here, all the teachers were really smart,” says my uncle.

Looking back now, he remembers these years as the best time of his life. “I had the opportunity to go to a lot of places and to learn a lot. I loved being there,” he says. At “España-Mexico,” he had some benefits that he hadn’t had at home such as a daily shower, a good education, daily food, and even some sports time.

He studied there during elementary school. During the summer break before going to middle school, he quit. He could have gone back but he decided to start working. He now regrets this decision. But as a teenager it seemed easier to start earning his own money and start flirting with girls. He got some small jobs with people he had met before until he discovered what he really liked: being a painter. It may seem odd, but he found magic in mixing colors to discover a new one. “I tried a lot of jobs. I tried to be a mechanic, but I didn’t like to use gasoline to clean car parts. I tried to be an electrician but it was boring. So I finally learned how to paint the interiors and façades of houses. I enjoyed this because the person who taught me also showed me how to mix colors to create a new one. I was young so for me that was awesome.

My uncle still works as a painter. He has had a good life, having found his work when he was a young adult. He had 11 kids. Now he lives in Villahermosa, Tabasco, México with the younger of his daughters, her husband and three grandchildren. At this time of his life, what he likes the most is being with his family and watching action movies in his free time.

Grecia Gonzalez Miranela – Profile by Miriam Lamarka Miranda

Grecia with her parents

Grecia is twenty-three years old and her main character trait is that she’s a direct person. You can see by looking at her face that she is serious and formal. Maybe that’s because she studies law and is always is trying to do things correctly. After finishing her study of law, she would like to move outside Mexico to work at a Mexican Embassy.

She’s the kind of person that uses school as a tool to become a better human being. The university keeps her busy all the time, which she loves. But she also enjoys watching sports and baking desserts. 

Grecia is a social person, too, always smiling and saying hello to her friends. She would love to study art because she thinks it’s the best way to express feelings and to show yourself to people. When she thinks about the future, she imagines herself living with someone she loves.

“I Remember”

I remember the red and white lights every winter that signal Christmas is coming. The Christmas tree, the gifts, the decorations, and the smell of the pine tree in the house overwhelm me. I especially remember the Christmas of 2007. Why that year? I need to explain the circumstances.

My dad, Ignacio, had a car accident in Zihuatanejo in September of that year. He was living there because of his job at the gas station we own, and the rest of us were living in Uruapan. He was hospitalized for 23 days, and for all those days we couldn’t visit him because he was transferred to Guadalajara to receive intensive hospital care. My mom, Yolanda took care of him there. My brother, Nachito, and I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Uncertainty was our companion in those days. My father had two legs and some ribs broken and his diabetes got complicated too. He couldn’t walk; that was all we knew. But after five years of just visiting us every weekend, he came back to live permanently in Uruapan because he was injured and needed us to care for him.

The reality was that after the accident, we had a different dad. The man we used to know was very active, working every single hour of the day, driving from one gas station to another, yelling and screaming at everyone. He was very severe about work and how he felt people should act. After the accident, we saw a shadow of the man we used to know. My mom, my brother and I had to help him with everything. This included moving him to go to the bathroom and taking a shower, preparing his meals, and bringing food to him. He was in bed all day long; the only moves he made were to turn his body from side to side. All of us were chained to that room, the one next to the stairs on the second floor.

But that Christmas was very special because my mom, my dad, and my little brother were very close for the first time in many years. We were a family, a real one. Those months after the accident, we started to help each other and started to have a good relationship. The problems were there but that Christmas but we decided to lock them up for the night. We ate at our dinner table on the first floor and in that moment, unchained from his room, we felt free for the first time in months.

I remember that I cooked Bolognese pasta and baked an apple pie – my brother and dad’s favorite. Just having the four of us, without my grandparents and other relatives around, was a precious gift. This dinner felt like the most special and loving one that I’ve ever had. Today I remember that night and I can still see the red and white lights tinkling for us. We hoped for good days, and knew that everything was going to be just fine if we were together.

 

Writing from the “Telling Lives” workshop by Maribel Barcena Lopez

Maribel Barcena Lopez by Talía De Niz Pérez Negrón

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Maribel is an American girl with a golden Mexican heart created by the efforts of her family to keep all kinds of traditions around her: banda, mariachi, noches mexicanas, carnes asadas, weekends in Tijuana. But the most important value is family – the support, guidance, influence and inspiration she can only find there.

Her Mexican grandparents immigrated from Jalisco and Tijuana to California in the 1960’s. ”They are a very important part of my life. Their customs, morals, and ideals were passed down to their kids and then to their grandchildren, one of whom is me,” Maribel said. “ Most who are third generation are completely disconnected from their roots and do not speak Spanish. I am grateful to my grandparents and parents for not letting go of my culture.”

 Maribel is an artist who likes to document herself and her adventures with photographs. She likes traveling, meeting new people, the sun, the breeze, food, and traditions. She is an L.A girl who loves her city, not the glamour and Hollywood but the one-of-a-kind big melting pot of languages, traditions, culture and histories that live there. Beautiful! She says, “One minute you’ll be in little Tokyo eating sushi and drinking sake bombs and the next minute you can be in East L.A. walking through the mercadito, eating un elote con chile and drinking an agua de limón.”

She has done substantial work with the youth arts collective “Heart and Soul” and “Inner City Arts,” a fabulous nonprofit organization where she can express herself, grow as an artista, and work in a space that stresses the importance and power of arts education. This is also where she found the motivation and desire to pursue a degree in fine arts with a focus on visual arts and humanities.

She is now in Morelia to sample the Mexican experience, try a different way of life, to get inspired, find new friends, and gain a different point of view about her country.   

A sweet girl she is – a coffee lover (American with a bit of milk or iced if it’s a hot day), an adventurous but safe traveler, and definitely a person that you want as a friend.

 ”The Seeds of My Family”

Mom Lupe and Pop, 1979

In this photograph I see a young couple, gleaming with life and love. A giant smile spreads across the face of the woman as her partner gazes at her. His expression might be pure amazement and disbelief that he is standing next to such a beautiful woman. This moment shows the beginning of a new life, one of many hardships and sacrifices but also of happiness. This couple shares love but also similar stories.

Before they came together, both had to overcome many disappointments, setbacks, and failures. Both were born in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, to lower middle class families. Times were tough and both had big families that needed their support. Their best chance was to find work in the United States. The people in the photograph are my grandparents, “Mom Lupe” and “Pop.”

Pop arrived in Los Angeles in November, 1968 – a moment that would change his life. He waited many years to receive his visa. The process was unpredictable, and at the time things in Mexico were in chaos. The tension in the country, along with student revolts and protests, delayed the approval of his visa.  He worked small jobs and finally he was approved and on his way to the U.S. 1968 was the first Christmas he spent alone, away from his family, friends and his beloved hometown, Ocotlan. One of his first jobs was as a floor sweeper for an Italian named Mr. Remo who owned a clothing manufacturing company in downtown LA. Mr. Remo saw something in Pop and showed him the ropes of the business. Soon he gave Pop the opportunity to manage a cutting room department. Two years later Pop opened up his own cutting company with the help and support of Mr. Remo.  It was his first major accomplishment – a defining moment in his life and a memory very close to his heart.  He still holds undeniable gratitude for Mr. Remo, the man that saw him as more than just a Mexican immigrant who needed work, but as someone with humility, morals, a work ethic and integrity.

Mom Lupe arrived in Los Angeles when she was 17 years old. She came to find work to help herself and the eight younger siblings she left behind. Mom took the first job that came her way as a housekeeper and babysitter, for which she earned 25 dollars a week. The job lacked adequate pay, gratitude and respect. Soon she realized she couldn’t get by on this so she took her Tia Maggie’s advice and learned to sew. Mom went to work at a factory downtown on San Pedro and 22nd St. She wasn’t a pro when she started; her fingers and hands were still sensitive. Days at the factory were long and demanding, and the bosses unforgiving. When she poked her fingers with the needles, she would run to the restroom and cry in silence, her fingers bloody and her hands swollen. Although she was in pain and stressed, Mom didn’t show it. Her spirit, pride and determination were never broken and her pain paid off. By her second week she was making 65 dollars. From there she moved around to different sewing jobs and eventually landed in Glassell Park, at a factory next door to Mr. Remo’s. Whether it was fate or coincidence, that is how Mom and Pop met.

In this photograph I see a couple that together and apart are hard workers, determined and driven. However, I also see two people who don’t take life too seriously and enjoy the little things: morning walks on the beach, a hot bowl of menudo, reading on the front porch, and weekend trips to Tijuana.  I see how their work finally reaped rewards. In this photo Mom and Pop are standing in the living room of a new house that isn’t rented or leased but purchased. Located in Northeast LA with a gorgeous view of the city, it has five bedrooms, three baths and a huge back yard, which would be perfect for all of the birthdays, anniversaries, Banda parties, noches Mexicanas, quinceañeras and weddings that were to come.

I see big smiles and big hearts, the meshing of new and old traditions, fights and reconciliations, family dinners where everyone is about to bite each other’s heads off but at the end of the night all are teary-eyed from the laughter. I see lessons being taught and learned, my grandpa telling stories from the past about people he helped when he had nothing, my grandma nagging at him to get rid of all his junk, and my grandpa not listening.  I see my grandparents 40 years later, enjoying their café con leche and pan tostado at the table, savoring one another’s company. I see the planting of seeds that became my family.

.

Mom Lupe and Pop, 2011

 

Writing from the “Telling Lives” Workshop by Carlos Emilio Rodríguez Barrientos and Talía De Niz Pérez Negrón

In class, we often use poetry as inspiration. One week, we read Brian Doyle’s wonderful prose poem “What Matters,” which led to students’ epiphanies about the marvels of their daily lives. (For Doyle’s original, see http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/blog/what-really-matters). Carlos’ version is included below along with his profile.

We also write in response to prompts such as “I remember.” Talía’s freewrite brought her back to a life-changing period she spent in Paris. “One hundred and Thirty-Three Steps” follows her profile below.

Carlos Emilio Rodríguez Barrientos

by Dhilery Alejandra García Hernandez

Carlos is a Zihuatanejo native, though he hasn’t lived there in a long time. He came to Morelia looking for another way of life and for opportunities. He sees Morelia as a temporary place to live while he is studying communications at Universidad Latina de América.

What he misses the most about Zihuatanejo is the sand and his family. However, living alone has some benefits, such as being more independent, which has helped Carlos to get to know himself.

He would like to focus on writing. This is what Carlos loves to do as often as he can. A good whisky and a cigar are the perfect friends when Carlos is writing. He also likes to play guitar. For some time he wanted to be a great musician to travel around the world with his friends and his guitar. He would like to study in a different country, especially England because he loves their musical history.

Writing or being in the movie industry is what Carlos would like to see in his future in a big city. For now, he is enjoying his college years as much as he can.

 ”What Matters” by Carlos…..

What matters to me is the joy in life. The little moments that create big memories. The wind touching my skin while I´m running to reach the future. The taste of coffee in the morning. The heat of the sand when I walk in the beach. The cold water of the sea, drowning the bad memories. The hands of my friends pushing me toward new adventures. A text message in the afternoon announcing a party. A good book taking me to unexplored lands. An exciting movie to forget the homework. Waking up very late and realizing it’s Sunday and I can sleep in. A big chocolate ice cream in the park, watching the clouds traveling across the huge blue sky. A piano singing to the heart of the city. The bright of the moon covering the cold skin of a dreaming town. The crystalline waters of the rivers flowing into the huge sea. Singing until the voice gets tired. Dreaming about the future and awakening with a new goal. The embrace of a mother after a long time without seeing her son. The smile of a woman after a sweet kiss on her lips. The tears of a father, carrying his newborn son to the arms of his wife. The love.

Talía De Niz Pérez Negrón by Maribel Barcena

Talía is a Mexican design student at Universidad Latina de América in Morelia, Michoacán and will graduate at the end of spring term. When you first meet her, it’s hard to tell where she is from. This is partly because of her name, which she doesn’t care for because it’s not very common. But it’s also because her fluency in three languages – Spanish, French and English – makes it difficult to identify an accent let alone an ethnicity.

Talía is much more than a design student. She is writer, artist, world traveler and hopeless romantic. Her experiences while studying abroad in Paris forced her to become more personable and outgoing. She says that when you go to a foreign place where you don’t know anybody you have to reach out and be more present, because everyone needs a friend. In Paris she found more than friends.  She found love in the beauty and culture of France. Ask her about her daily walks to buy fresh baguettes at the bakery near her Paris apartment or about the crazy coincidence that brought her to live in the same apartment as that of Dominique Bredoteau, a character in the French film “Amélie” – a favorite of hers. Ask her anything about France and her face instantly illuminates with joy and nostalgia.

She loves the little things in life: dancing in the shower or singing aloud to songs she loves whether it’s ACDC or Selena Gomez, and her favorite Miguel Bose.  She adores romantic French songs, British accents, and American football. This shows what a well -rounded person she is.  Talía may not know exactly what she wants in life and does not have all the answers in the palm of her hand.  However, she knows how to follow her heart and so far it’s led her in the right direction. She has already accomplished so much and plans to do more. Next on her list is a visit to India and the Taj Mahal, as well as application to a Masters Program in Barcelona, Spain to study shoe design and creation.

“One Hundred and Thirty-Three Steps”

We are always curious, afraid, and uncertain of the firsts steps we take in life as children and as grownups in new, mysterious places. This is true even when those steps become memorable ones. Here is my story, one hundred and thirty-three steps I’ll never forget.

I remember the walk from home to the bakery: one hundred and thirty-three steps toward the delightful smell of fresh baked bread. There I was, living my life with different numbers and foreign words: six was the number, Jasmine the Street, 16 the district and Paris the place. At the first step, one big door opened, followed by the sound of footsteps and of a door closing behind. Then all the things around me came to life. To the right, the newspaper stand – click, clack, click, clack – my fifteenth step, to my left the smell of cheese drowned my senses. Ten steps later, the post office, another twenty steps, the police station.

Forty, forty-one, forty-two… Look at that beautiful dog!… forty-five, forty-six… Bonjour madame!… forty-nine, fifty… These were the sounds in my head every day on my walk to the bakery. Counting steps is a funny thing to do, I thought to myself almost every day, but why not? Why not make every step of my way a number I could remember for the rest of my days?

From the seventieth step, the walk was filled with colors and smells, especially in autumn. Close to step number one hundred there were lots and lots of leaves on the ground with colors I’d never seen before: yellow, orange, red, all mixed with the amazing feeling of almost.

One hundred and thirty-one, two, three… Bonjour, je veux une baguette s’il vous plaît, I said while my eyes checked each shelf filled with macarons, croque monsieurs, pains au chocolat, eclairs and the first bouches de noël. My hand searched my pocket for coins while the keys clanked with the money. After paying I stayed there for a short time to feel the warm bread in my hands through the paper bag, smell the combined ingredients and take the first bite of the baguette. That was it! That was THE moment where my every sense was complete, my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my hands. It was like being in a movie, maybe a scene from Amélie.

Why did I count my steps? Because I didn’t want to forget, because everyday in that place was like a dream to me. Because the fact of being there was magical, feeling the autumn air in my hair, the sound of people speaking French, the children playing, the discrete laughter, the intoxicating smell of the red wine, a smell I knew but had never enjoyed before. Because I was afraid to wake up and realize that the grass under my legs and my feet, the colors behind the beautiful and amazing lady of iron – la tour Eiffel – might be nothing more than my favorite dream. I counted my steps so I could replay them in my head. I wanted to be completely sure that I was really living in the same place that Dalí, Hemingway, Rodin, Monet, and Piaf once did. One hundred and thirty-three steps changed my life and made me realize that dreams can come true.

We always are curious, afraid, and uncertain not just of the first steps we take in life but sometimes of life itself. Some fears disappear and others remain. For me forgetting is the biggest fear. That’s the major reason why I try so hard to remember special things in different ways.